ICTU policies on violence against women urged


BEFORE coming to the ICTU Women's Conference, one delegate went to visit her elderly mother who had suffered domestic violence for most of her married life.

"She is just a complete vegetables now. She is bedridden and nearly completely blinded. That's because my father bashed her face in when she had her glasses on. The glass was broken into her face and her eyes. The retina was detached in one eye and the damage done to her sight was irreparable. That was when there was no Women's Aid. She went to the authorities and was told that her only option was to put us, her children, into a home. But she didn't. She didn't want the family broken up.

"When one of my brothers got to his teens, he tackled my father and threw him out of the house.

"She put us all through school. We are all very settled and in settled relationships. She was one of the founders of Women's Aid", she said.

This delegate told her story to the conference in the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, on Saturday with simplicity and dispassion. Later, she said violence against women was one of the issues on which the trade union movement had made little advance.

She was speaking on a motion on "Violence in the Home", put down by the Amalgamated Transport and General Worker's Union which called on the executive council of the ICTU to develop workplace policies for victims of domestic violence.

More than 200 delegates from 22 unions attended the two day conference, which covered a wide range of topics from discrimination in pay, ageism, parental leave, childcare, part time work and casualisation.

There were six speakers on the domestic violence issue, including Ms Rhoda Donaghey of MANDATE, who deplored the fact that battered women were still portrayed as "victims who live in council houses with alcoholic husbands". She believed women victims often only felt secure in their workplace, where it was quite common for them to speak out or "drop hints".

It was crucial, another delegate said, that there was an awareness of the effects of this violence among all workers and employers, and that it was defined as a health and safety issue in the workplace.

Saturday morning's session dealt with "Women and Social Issues", on motions dealing with third level education, discrimination against women teachers, health, poverty, childcare and vulnerable workers.

A delegate from the Teachers' Union of Ireland said there was an urgent need for gender equality among teachers. In her school, with a 50/50 mix of pupils, there were II men on the staff and 20 women. Yet seven of the 11 men held senior positions.

The TUI motion called on the conference to demand that future legislation ensures that interview boards have a gender balance and that those on interview boards have training in appointment procedures and interviewing techniques - including gender equity.

The Association of University Teachers called for the removal of the financial barriers against women wishing to return to third level education.

OVER 174,500 people, 8 per cent of the population, suffer regular migraine attacks, an MRBI survey has found.

The survey also revealed that twice as many women and men suffer from migraines, with attacks lasting for anything from four to 72 hours at a time.

In addition to severe or pulsating pain, the symptoms of a classic migraine attack can include partial loss of vision, vomiting, diarrhoea, a feeling of nausea, sensitivity to light or sound and a general feeling of weakness.

The survey found that 26 percent of all sufferers experience severe migraine attacks more than 20 times a year. Some 11 per cent of sufferers reported losing at least four days a year from work, a potential loss to the economy of 70,000 working days.

The survey was carried out for the Irish Migraine Association (IMA) which held a public seminar on the illness in Dublin yesterday. The meeting was addressed by Prof Philip Lamey who has researched trigger factors which cause migraine.

Over 1,500 people aged between 15 and 64 were interviewed and 53 per cent of them said they had experienced headaches.

Twenty eight per cent of the sample described suffering symptoms associated with a classic migraine attack. In all, 8 per cent were identified as suffering classic migraine headaches.

The greatest concern expressed by migraine sufferers was the loss in the quality of their lives.

Commenting on the survey, Ms Audrey Craven, chairperson of the IMA, said a most worrying statistic which emerged is that as many as 85 per cent of respondents may not seek medical help for their condition.